25 New Facebook Features Released Last Week
A lot of the buzz after Facebook’s recent F8 Conference focused on Messenger “bots,” sensationalizing that feature to the point that you might be under the impression that Facebook’s artificial intelligence is sophisticated enough to carry on natural conversations with you (spoiler alert: they’re not). Unfortunately, many of the changes that Facebook rolled out last week aren’t getting as much attention, and they should.
Leading up to the conference, Facebook created some buzz around the term “context collapse,” which they use to describe how habitual Facebook users are sharing less on the platform than they had previously. Judging from the improvements that Facebook just rolled out, context collapse is real AND Facebook appears committed to devote a lot of resources to avoid it.
Some pretty cool features rolled out last week that you should know about – so I’m going to spend the rest of the post sharing these with you. To organize these features for you, I categorized each change into one of these five buckets:
- Content Improvements – Changes that give publishers more access to Facebook, hoping to increase interaction on content
- Social Care Improvements – Changes that give businesses and users tools to resolve social care issues completely within the Facebook ecosystem
- E-Commerce/Advertising Improvements – Changes that give businesses opportunities to spend more money on Facebook as an advertising and eCommerce platform
- Analytics Improvements – Changes that give communication pros and marketers better information on Facebook interactions and customer segments
- UX Improvements – Changes that give users a better experience when using the Facebook platform
I hope that you can find a few features that you didn’t know about and that you can incorporate into your communication or marketing strategies.
If you do content marketing in any capacity, Facebook’s resources for you today are significantly more robust than they were a few weeks ago. Many of the sessions at F8 emphasized design for the mobile web (differentiating from mobile apps) and emphasized optimization for international users (specifically the minuscule load times of the Instant Articles product). Facebook’s new content features accommodate some of the biggest content-related pain points (except of course for Facebook distribution, which will still require some budget).
1. Improved Embeds
One of the clunkiest features of the Facebook in the past has been its embed features, especially for multimedia embeds. There was a lot of superfluous information that cluttered the margins of Facebook embeds and made them look pretty inelegant (more or less depending upon the context).
At F8, Facebook rolled out a cleaner embed option that showcases the media/post and minimizes the other stuff. It isn’t as intuitive to do as a regular embed, however. After choosing the embed option, you need to choose “advanced options” and re-enter the URL of the post that you want to share. OR you can copy the URL and go directly to the advanced options with the links below:
2. Embeddable Comments
In addition to images and video, Facebook just rolled out the option for you to embed comments from Facebook on a third-party page as well. The process works the same as a post or video; there is an embed button by every public comment on a post – click for the code and paste it in your site.
3. Comment Mirroring
Have you ever wondered where comments that you leave on sites using the Facebook comments plugin go? Facebook just introduced a feature meant to increase engagement around their comments plugin with a broader audience. It’s called “comment mirroring” and what it does is mirrors a comment left on your site through the Facebook comments plugin to your Page.
Facebook says that the intention is to “unify” the conversation, but the real benefit to content creators is the ability to moderate and respond to comments in one place (your Facebook Page). This appears to require a set-up from Page settings although as of this writing Facebook hasn’t released documentation on the feature.
4. Improved Comments Plugin
Facebook announced moderation changes to its Comments plugin, including improved spam moderation, the ability to split work among moderators using a feature called “my queue,” limiting comment length, auto-closing comments after a period of time and the ability to force moderation of comments with (a certain number of) links.
5. Suggested Hashtags
Just as you can do in Twitter (albeit more intuitively), Facebook announced that it is now allowing developers to add suggested hashtags to their share buttons using the parameter, “hashtag.” Implementation of this appears to be operating system specific, available using iOS, Android, and mobile/desktop web.
6. Instant Articles Open to All
Instant Articles are minimalist multimedia articles that are published exclusively to the Facebook platform. They load 10 times faster than mobile web articles (this was independently confirmed) and Facebook has a lot of positive engagement metrics around these. Until last week only bigger publishers had access to Instant Articles, but now everyone does.
7. Branded Content (Native advertising) Permitted in Instant Articles
If it seems too good to be true that Facebook would allow you to use native advertising in its Instant Articles and give you different options for attribution to the sponsoring brand, it’s not (at least for now). Facebook shared its “branded content” policy at F8 detailing that native advertising is permitted in its Instant Articles, and shared that Facebook would allow this while allowing publishers to keep 100 percent of the profits from these branded content pieces.
8. Monetization Options for Instant Articles
In addition to allowing publishers to keep profits from “direct-sold” ads, Facebook is giving publishers access to its Audience Network to facilitate monetization of Instant Articles as well. Facebook is opening Instant Articles to all and giving them an opportunity to monetize content as well. A pretty shrewd move to attract content and to increase revenue.
9. More Configurable Facebook Pages (Especially for Mobile)
One of the more memorable insights from the F8 Conference was that statement that all businesses aren’t the same, so Facebook recognizes that Pages need to have flexibility to accommodate diverse businesses. To address this pain point, Facebook introduced more customizable Pages focusing on the mobile web to demonstrate their effectiveness. The “call to action” button is more prominently featured in the Page (Facebook committed to growing the CTA options in the coming year as well), and the sections are configurable allowing businesses to tailor their Page presence how customers prefer.
10. 360-Degree Video Support
Many people have been anticipating how Facebook would incorporate their Oculus Rift acquisition into the Facebook ecosystem, and at F8 they demonstrated the hardware and software to create 360-degree virtual reality images and to present them on the Facebook platform (hardware and software are open sourced rather than produced by Facebook itself).
They showed a fascinating example of this technology showing a CNN report from a Syrian refugee camp: the entire encampment was visually captured using this technology and the immersion made for some powerful images (there are some other really cool examples of this on the Facebook 360 Page). As far as content goes, this is a differentiating feature although it remains to be seen how cost prohibitive this technology is.
11. Shared Media
For businesses with multiple Pages, Facebook rolled out “crossposted videos” which allows one Page to share one uploaded video across multiple Pages. The analytics across sites are consolidated with the originating admin, which for a communication pro or marketer promoting multiple channels on Facebook could be very convenient.
Social Care Improvements
12. Messenger Bots
Everything you have heard and read about Messenger Bots is hype. I don’t mean to say that Messenger Bots aren’t interesting or useful, but they’re not taking over the world anytime soon, and they seem to be misunderstood.
First off, the intention of Messenger Bots is simply to make Messenger more useful for business conversations. A Bot won’t develop any additional intelligence beyond what they’re programmed to do. One of the big examples that Facebook touts is a weather app that sends you the weather specific to your geolocation – kind of cool, but not in an Ultron way.
Messenger Bots are a way for businesses to scale social care and to perform it exclusively in the Facebook ecosystem. There are plenty of examples of autoresponders on Twitter sending out of context messages, and you should expect the same for Bots. Bots aren’t artificial intelligence, just automation.
If you look at the test cases (Zulily, Shopify, 1-800-Flowers, Uber) the functionality of a Messenger Bot is probably not going to wow you. That said, you may want to experiment with them if you’re doing social care on Facebook.
13. Private Replies to Public Posts
One of my favorite social care strategies is to immediately try to resolve problems off-platform in private (Amazon uses this strategy prominently on social media, as do other companies). Email is more reliable, is private, and it gets you a more reliable means to contact that customer in the future. But maybe Facebook has a way to change that.
Facebook just rolled out the feature to thwart that. It is a Page button that allows businesses to respond privately to a public post to their Page. One of the biggest frustrations with Facebook Page management was the inability to interact privately with “Fans,” and may go a long way toward retaining many conversations on Facebook that may otherwise have gone to email.
14. m.me (Message Me)
If you type in m.me to your browser – you will be redirected to Messenger. This in and of itself isn’t a big deal (unless you’re wowed by URL shorteners). But if you type m.me/username (username being a Page name), you will be redirected to a Messenger message directly to that business. Test it out by writing to m.me/cisionglobal and telling them how great their blog articles are (or how great their products are, perhaps?).
Kind of a cool feature, but one that will probably be more useful as a pushed link or code (for more on this feature click here).
15. Office Hours
Resource is oftentimes an issue when it comes to social care. Despite the fact that customers expect an email response to a question or complaint in a day, they expect social resolution within hours. Facebook is giving Page admins the opportunity to turn off Messenger for periods of time to let customers know when you can respond and when you can’t. This makes resource allocation to social care much easier to manage and possibly more economical.
16. Instant Replies (Autoresponders)
What could be more customer service-y than an unsolicited autoresponse? Thank you for contacting us…. All jokes aside, you can now create autoresponders in Messenger, but be on the lookout for better spam filtering or paid autoresponders at F8 2017…
Facebook’s success has been largely a product of its ability to leverage audience and attention to sell advertising, and there are two major improvements to the platform that allow for more robust advertising and e-commerce options than were previously available.
17. The Universal “Save” Button
Facebook is rolling out its “Save to Facebook” button, which theoretically would save any webpage to a private portion of Facebook for future reference (and as prices change for e-commerce goods (as an example), the saved page would notify you.
As has been noted, this feature has more than a few similarities to Pocket, but of course the benefit of having these features available in the Facebook ecosystem is the disproportionate amount of time people spend on Facebook relative to everything else.
18. Push notifications
One of the coolest developments Facebook rolled out (in my opinion, anyhow) are push notifications for apps. Push notifications are nothing new, but Facebook push notifications give you the opportunity to include gifs or images in the pushed message, and allow you to do push notification campaigns for free.
You can segment push notifications as well, making it useful for granular campaigns as well. It’s a very cool feature for developers and a very creative way to bring people to the Facebook ecosystem from a third-party app.
In the video above, Ryan Ogle, CTO of Tinder, discusses the way that Tinder uses the Facebook push notifications. An interesting comment that he makes is that if the Facebook push infrastructure was in place when Tinder was developing push notifications, he might have used the Facebook solution exclusively. Which is some high praise (although taken with a grain of salt since this discussion happened at F8).
There is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to communication and marketing metrics, especially as it relates to social media. Moreso than any other measurement tool that I’ve seen, Facebook has given businesses some very useful features to analyze their performance on the site and to find opportunities to improve. It will be interesting to see if platforms like Twitter or others follow suit.
19. Incredible Sharing Metrics Through FB Analytics for Apps
Would you like to understand the demographic breakdown of everyone who shares your content? Of course this is a leading question, because of course you would. And you can with Facebook Analytics for Apps.
After setting this up on your site you can see anonymized data of everyone who shared your content on Facebook with demographic breakdowns (For example, I suspect that my Grandma may perhaps be boosting the readership of my articles – Analytics for Apps would more or less confirm this).
20. “Breakdown” – Make Your Own Pivot Charts With Analytics Data
One of the most useful features for data-crunchers is the Breakdown feature of Analytics for Apps. In it, you can create custom pivot charts of your data (including demographics) to help you understand it in a way that is meaningful to you (rather than trying to analyze a pro forma report).
It’s pretty unprecedented to have control of your data in this way (without having to perform a bunch of unnecessary steps) – and I think it will appeal to a lot of communication professionals and marketers that are driven by performance and measurement.
Of course mitigating context collapse is a huge issue for Facebook, and a large part of that is to improve the user experience. Here are a few features that Facebook rolled out to make time spent on the platform more share-worthy:
21. Quote sharing
One of cooler features announced at F8 was the ability for users to share quotes from a piece of content rather than simply the prescribed title with comment. This has been successfully beta-tested with the Kindle apps for iOS and Android, although the “Share dialog” which facilitates quote sharing can be extended beyond books to any written content.
A quick note to all of my Facebook friends, Jane McGonigal quotes are coming fast and furious when I get a few minutes alone with my Kindle…
22. Ability to Sign In by SMS or email
I was torn where to put this feature because it benefits users, businesses and Facebook. On the one hand, users don’t have to use Code Generator to socially log on to every Facebook-enabled site on the Internet. Businesses give users a better way to socially login, and Facebook can track more people’s behavior with less effort.
The feature, called “Account Kit” is a whole lot easier than the social login process was two weeks ago. For an example, check out the video above.
23. Profile Videos
Ever shoot a Vine and wish that it could be your Facebook profile picture? Whether you answer yes or no is irrelevant because you have the capability to do this whether you want to or not. Termed the “Facebook Profile Expression Kit,” Facebook now allows users to update short video from MSQRD, Boomerang from Instagram, lollicam, BeautyPlus, Cinemagraph Pro from Flixel and Vine into their profile picture.
Any communication or marketing benefits aside, you should seriously try this now and wow your late-adopting Facebook friends….
24. iOS Sharing Improvements
One cool but under the radar improvement announced at F8 was Facebook’s redesign of the iOS sharing dialog. Previously, the iOS version lacked the full-functionality of Facebook shares on other platforms. Now, iOS sharing from the mobile web is faster and has the same look and options that you would get from Android or from a browser.
25. Multimedia Sharing Improvements
Finally, Facebook announced that they will give users the ability to share images AND video in the same post. I can’t find any documentation about it other than the presentation above BUT I just tried it, and it works.
While this may be a minuscule feature to many, for me it is everything I need Facebook to be. Every violin recital that I begrudgingly attend because “I am the father” will be captured concisely in one Facebook post for grandparent consumption.
Facebook released a lot of cool features last week, yet you may have only heard about one or two of them. Whether you use these or not, the big takeaway for me is that Facebook is serious about re-engaging its already dis-proportionally engaged users. And one of the coolest ways that they’re doing it is by giving content creators tools to earn attention through the platform.
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